How can we bring the church back to a "right community?" At best, many churches are a body of acquaintences that reconnect on Sunday mornings. How can we become an authentic body of believers that does not dwell in a building, but impacts the communities around us?


I'm Back!

I'm finally back after a grueling summer. I am also back with a new job. I am now employed at Azusa Pacific University as a Customer Service Technician in IMT department. Basically, all that means is when people are having trouble with their computers they give me a call and I help them troubleshoot the situation. This position will be a huge blessing and is an answer to prayer so a big thank you to all of you that have been praying for this position! I'll continue writing on how we can create an "orthosocietas" shortly!


Life in the Fast Lane

My apologies to those who have been waiting for a post over the last several weeks. Life is crazy. I haven't posted the news yet but my wife, Heather, is pregnant! She is now in the end of her second trimester. We know (as accurate as an ultra-sound can be) that we are having a girl and we have decided to name her Kessid Grace Cooper! I am very excited about the name because it was of my picking and it was a tough campaign! In case you are wondering, Kessid is Hebrew for "lovingkindness" and is a powerful theological word that often describes God's lovingkindness to his people. The transliteration is actually Khesed but the compromise was presenting the name in a way inwhich it wouldn't be mispronounced and didn't quite look so Klingon!
Due to the expected arrival of the new addition, I have been vigoriously looking for a full-time staff position at Azusa Pacific University. I also have started a part-time position at the church I have been serving at as the "Discipleship Coordinator." The church position is volunteer so I have been looking for something to add that involves getting paid. My hope is to return to blogging soon and perhaps add a couple more articles on Revelation.
So thanks for the patience and I should have something posted within the next week!


King of the Abyss (Rev. 9)

Chapter 9 is a fascinating picture visually. "The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared th be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like the hair of women and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months." (Rev. 9:7-10) With such a vivid image of these locust "centaurs," you can begin to imagine the plethera of interpretations that have sprung up. For example, some have thought these creatures to be the modern day "Scorpion" helicopters. One could easily fit the job of these creatures into the idea of a helicopter except for the fact that they don't have the ability to kill. They are only permitted to torment for 5 months (v. 10).
Then after the processional of locust centaurs have emerged, we are told that they have a king over them, the angel of the Abyss. John records something very interesting, he gives us the name of the angel of the Abyss in Hebrew and Greek. In Hebrew the name is Abaddon and in Greek it is Apollyon. The fact that John gives us two names here should give us a hint that there is something else going on. Why is he giving us two names now? Most of the imagery so far has been rich with OT passages and he hasn't felt a need to bring in the Hebrew before now. Abaddon is only mentioned a few times in the OT (Job 16:6, Prov. 15:11) and in most cases it is linked with Sheol. Yet the references are still very vague as to what Abaddon is. We know that the Hebrew is for destruction but aren't able to understand more than the generic definition gives us. It isn't until we turn to the Dead Sea Scrolls that we see a connection with abaddon and the Abyss.
DSS (1QH,1QH36,4Q427-32; Hymn 9, 10) :
Hymn 9: line 16,17--"Hell and Abaddon shall open and all the flying arrows of the Pit shall send out their voice to the Abyss."
Hymn 10: line 18--I thank Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast redeemed my soul from the Pit, and from the hell of Abaddon Thou hast raised me up to everlasting height.
Hymn 10: line 32-36--The torrents of Belial shall break into Abaddon, and the deeps of the Abyss shall groan amid the roar of heaving mud. The land shall cry out because of the calamity fallen upon the world, and all its deeps shall howl. And all those upon it shall rave and shall perish amid the great misfortune. For God shall sound His mighty voice, and His holy abode shall thunder with the truth of His glory. The heavely hosts shall cry out and the world's foundations shall stagger and sway. The war of the heavenly warriors shall scourge the earth; and it shall not end before the appointed destruction which shall be for ever without compare.
--Does this account sound more like what we see in Revelation 9? It seems to be more detailed and reveals that at the time of Revelation's existence, there was most likely a well rounded understanding of the concept of abaddon. The thing that makes abaddon unique in Chapter 9 is that abaddon is personified in the king of the abyss. It is no longer a location, but a being. It is most likely that when the first century readers heard this being read, they probably attributed the characteristics of Abaddon to the king of the abyss.
Then, John doesn't leave it at abaddon but he gives us further insight into who this king is. He tells us that his Greek name is Apollyon. This speaks volumes to the first century reader. First of all, notice that Apollyon is a concrete masculine form that means "destroyer." It is a person who destroys. Yet Abaddon means "destruction" and is not concrete. If John wanted to bring out the Greek equivelant for destruction than it would have been Apoleia which is an abstract feminine word. By using Apollyon, John is bringing to mind the Greek god Apollo with is actually a derivative of apollyon. Apollo was the god of the sun and was known as a conqueror who was quite successful in battle. I also don't think it is a coincidence that one of the symbols used to represent Apollo was the locust because the locust represents destruction and devestation.
So who is this king of the abyss? I don't think we can be 100% sure since we are 2000 years removed from the culture but I tend to lean towards the possibility that he is Domitian. Domitian was very well known for declaring himself "Apollo incarnate." So, I guess if I was a first century Christian and was listening to the reading of Revelation, I think I would see where the Apollyon would be Domitian since he was "tormenting" fellow Christians. However, I don't think John ever intends to sell out on one interpretation. I think John's bigger goal is to remind Christians that God is ultimately in control. The king of the Abyss can't even be let loose without God's orders. The king of the abyss is just a part of God's greater plan of redemption and salvation.


Cultural Relevancy In A Broken Culture

I heard an advertisement on the radio yesterday that activated my theological mind. It was on a local Christian radio station and it was "advertising" a relationship with Jesus. It was stating that you don't have to feel lonely or depressed because Jesus wants to have a relationship with you and if you take Him up on his offer than you will be happy and not lonely anymore. The problem is that I feel lonely sometimes and I have a "relationship" with God. How does that type of evangelism make the gospel appear? It would seem that if I came to Christ for the purpose of not feeling lonely, then perhaps the gospel is a warm fuzzy blanket that I can curl up to at night and not feel alone. Didn't people once die for this gospel? Did they feel lonely?
What is the good news of the gospel? Are we spreading the gospel when we tell people that they don't have to be lonely and if they need a friend Jesus is there to "comfort" them? What happened to forgiveness, mercy, and grace? What happened to the costly discipleship that millions of Christians have died to pass on to us? We live in a Christian sub-culture that promotes the gospel through a broken culture. I used to be a big supporter of this method, but as time goes on I'm seeing how broken our culture really is. How effective can the gospel be spread through the conduit of a broken society? Can the gospel not stand on its own feet? The thing that I'm being drawn to most about church these days is that our church is different than the culture. It is a place where I can get away from the brokeness of this world. I don't want to hear how I can have a "relationship", "friend", "lover", or whatever other metaphor that encourages a comfortable and safe lifestyle. I want to stand in the presence of an Almighty God that breaks the borders of my understanding. I don't want a God that I can understand or contain.
I also don't want a gospel that is private and makes me feel comfortable. I want to share this good news by loving people. I want to spend more time loving people outside the church walls and not just "tell" people about the good news, but to show them. I want to feed the homeless. I want to preach to the "scum" that our culture pushes aside. I want to help the needy and love the unloved. This is the gospel that I read about in the Bible.
What type of gospel do you believe in? If you were a newcomer to your church, what message would you say your service is communicating about who God is?


Do we dare to be ordinary?

What makes a church attractive? If you've been to a variety of churches then you will know that they can be very different experiences. It almost seems that many churches today are "fishing" for people. Each church has its own "hook" on which they try to snag people and toss them in the "boat." You could almost make a consumeristic comment like, "There is a church out there for everyone." It's almost like shopping for a new car. Each person has certain amenities that they are looking for...cupholders are crucial for me. We want a church that fits and feels comfortable. Watch the clip and see if it resonates with your church "shopping" experience.

Have you ever felt that modern day evangelism is more about trying to "fish" people into your church? There is this idea that we need to be "culturally relevant" and use the cultural hook to snag people and pull them into the church boat. Are our churches spending less time going out into our communities and trying to impact peoples lives in order impact the kingdom? The more I learn about and desire discipleship, the less time I want to spend in the church. I read about this man named Jesus and he walks around healing people of horrible diseases. A grieving widow causes Jesus to pause and have compassion on her. Jesus brought healing and restoration to people's lives. He wasn't merely "telling" people about the kingdom of God, he was showing them the kingdom.

So, how relevant is cultural relevancy in our churches? Does this put to much emphasis on evangelism and neglects discipleship? Share your thoughts, I'm listening.


What's so bad about community service?

Being an avid NASCAR fan, I noticed that the 2004 Nextel Cup champion was on the front page of USA Today. I picked up the paper expecting to hear how amazing NASCAR really is and what a wonderful family sport it is. Instead, I read an article about how Kurt Busch weaseled his way out of community service for a misdemeanor by signing autographs and throwing the first pitch at a Giants vs. Diamondbacks baseball game. You can read this article here.
As I'm reading the article my mind is thinking, "What's so bad about community service?" Our small group engages in community service and I look forward to it each month. Why is community service considered a punishment? When it is issued as a punishment, why do celebrities weasel out of it by doing daily routine activities instead of actually serving the community in a more helpful way?
I think that this is an area where the church can stand in the gap and get involved in our local communities. Unfortunately, not all of our churches see community service this way. There are still many churches that would view community service as a punishment and have no desire to go outside the church walls. If we are truly striving to be a "right community", then I think community service and loving our neighbors needs to be an integral part of the church.
So, what are some things that your church has done to encourage community service in your neighborhoods? What are some ideas that you have?


Jesus and Healing

I'm reading a book by Herzog that discusses the healings and exorcisms of Jesus. He brings up an interesting point that Jesus' healings weren't merely for the sake of healing or to gain public support, but they also brought restoration and a renewed membership into the community. During the time of Jesus, when someone was striken with a disease or illness they would be considered unclean and casted out of the community until they were clean again. This is why you have small communities of lepers that congregate together because they were casted out of the community due to their uncleanness. So Jesus' healings weren't only a physcial healing but also a social healing as well. The unclean people were also restored to enter the temple because they weren't allowed to enter due to their health situation. It is at this point that Herzog says, "So healing is a means not an end, and Jesus is not a healer or an exorcist who conducts his work to gain public support." In every case that Jesus healed someone, it brought about a social restoration that enabled them to partake in the community of worship. Uncleanness was often associated with sin and we see Jesus on many occasions tell the person he healed that their sins were forgiven as well. So Jesus used healing as a means to restore people to the community and their families.
So, I started to think... what is the purpose of healing today? Most people today don't associate illness or disease with sin so diseases such as cancer or AIDS don't make a person less holy or spiritually unclean. In some cases do we pray for healing out of inconvenience? I prayed a few weeks ago that my sinus infection would go away because it was a pain. I wanted to be more productive and the infection was hindering me. Is that a right reason to pray for healing? What are right reasons? Can healing bring restoration to society today as it did when Jesus was healing in the 1st Century? Has the rules of healing changed? What do you think?